Candidates in ballot paper order
The first federal by-election since the election of the Albanese government will be held on April 1 in the eastern Melbourne seat of Aston following the resignation of Alan Tudge, who held the seat from 2010. Tudge served in cabinet during the Coalition's final term in government from 2019, first in the cities, urban infrastructure and population portfolios, then in education and youth from December 2020. He stood aside from the ministry in December 2021 after the ABC's Four Corners reported he had engaged in an affair with his then press secretary and announced he would not return to the front bench the following March, although it later emerged he was officially on leave and was still technically a minister. The royal commission launched by the Albanese government into the “robodebt” scheme brought him negative publicity in the months before he announced his retirement from politics in February, although his claim to have been driven out of politics by internet trolls was received sympathetically by the News Corp papers.
Aston covers the Liberal-leaning suburbs of Wantirna in the north and Rowville in the south, along with naturally marginal territory in Bayswater and Ferntree Gully, which neighbour Wantirna to the east. Labor held the seat for the first two terms after its creation in 1984, but Peter Nugent gained it for the Liberals as party of their haul of nine Victorian seats at the 1990 election and consolidated his hold thereafter.
Nugent's sudden death in April 2001 initiated a by-election at which Chris Pearce retained the seat for the Liberals against a 3.7% swing to Labor, giving the Howard government a morale-boosting result a month before the game-changing Tampa episode. Pearce's margin reached a peak of 13.2% amid a strong performance for the Liberals in suburban Melbourne in 2004, but it joined many such seats in swinging heavily to Labor in 2007, an 8.1% swing reducing the margin to 5.1%.
Pearce's retirement at the 2010 election raised Labor hopes that the seat might provide a gain to balance expected losses in New South Wales and Queensland, but Alan Tudge held out against a 3.3% swing by 1.8%. Tudge's margin blew out to 8.2% with the election of the Abbott government in 2013, which was followed by further small swings in his favour in 2016 and 2019, before a 7.3% swing back to Labor amid a poor result for the Liberals in suburban Melbourne in 2022.
The new Liberal candidate is Roshena Campbell, a barrister and City of Melbourne councillor and the wife of News Corp journalist James Campbell. Campbell won a vote of the state party's administrative committee with 13 votes ahead of former state upper house MP Cathrine Burnett-Wake and oncologist Ranjana Srivastava, who received three each. Another aspirant was Emanuele Cicchiello, deputy prinicipal of Lighthouse Christian College and former mayor of Knox, but he seemingly withdrew when the process was taken over by a party organisation that was determined that the position should go to a woman.
Labor has again endorsed its candidate from the federal election, Mary Doyle, a finance worker and former organiser for the National Tertiary Education Union.
Also in the field are candidates of the Greens and Fusion along with independent Maya Tesa, who ran as a state upper house candidate for the Liberal Democrats in November. One Nation are not in contention, Pauline Hanson having said the party had made “a strategic decision not to take votes away from the Coalition”.